Higher Education, Science and Innovation Minister Blade Nzimande. Picture: Werner Beukes/SAPA
Higher Education, Science and Innovation Minister Blade Nzimande. Picture: Werner Beukes/SAPA

Talks as Nzimande takes aim at MUT for governance and management problems

By Vernon Mchunu Time of article published May 27, 2021

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DURBAN - THE Mangosuthu University of Technology’s (MUT) executive committee is due to hold emergency talks to prepare a response to the impending investigation into the affairs of the embattled institution.

Higher Education, Science and Innovation Minister Blade Nzimande gave the university until yesterday to respond to his intention to institute a probe into what he described as “pending and ongoing governance and management problems (that) pose a serious threat to the stability and effective functioning (of MUT)”.

In a clear reference to the acting vice-chancellor and principal, Professor Marcus Ramogale, Nzimande raised concern that “incumbents are in acting capacities for long periods”.

Ramogale was appointed immediately after the suspension, in April last year, of vice-chancellor and principal Dr Duma Malaza, who was sent home along with Dr Phana Mabaso, the chief audit executive, and senior director of operations Muzi Khumalo.

Reliable sources have linked the trio’s suspensions to the fact that Malaza had filed a report to council, complaining about unauthorised interference in the awarding of a security tender.

“I have not been presented with a plan to turn around the situation. I am deeply concerned at the prolonged instability at the university with the vice-chancellor (Malaza) still under suspension,” Nzimande said, in a May 11 letter, which The Mercury has seen.

“As you are aware, there is ongoing public concern about the current situation and increasing calls for me to intervene, particularly the meeting of the (parliamentary) Portfolio Committee on 12 February 2021,” he said, in reference to the sitting in which lawmakers berated MUT’s exco members for alleged interference in the administration of the institution, saying they would ask Nzimande to intervene.

“Following my meeting with the council on 15 July 2020, and the subsequent receipt of the executive summary of the investigation report, I have received reports of serious concerns and misgivings regarding the investigation,” Nzimande said, in reference to a council commissioned forensic probe into Malaza, Mabaso and Khumalo.

A reliable source told The Mercury disciplinary hearings against the suspended three were yet to be finalised – after the probe was completed last year.

Lawyers representing the three filed urgent court papers to bar the council from releasing the report before a full council meeting earlier this year, citing the fact that it should first be shared with those named in wrongdoing.

Nzimande said he was unable to confirm whether the various allegations raised were adequately investigated to establish the facts, given, as he put it, allegations of bias and interference by the exco in the probe.

He said the broad terms of reference made the investigation appear “to be a fishing expedition, and the report that has been labelled ‘sketchy’”.

“I, therefore, deem it necessary to appoint an Independent Assessor in terms of the Higher Education Act, to independently interrogate the allegations and counter-allegations that have come to my attention, in order to eliminate any potential argument of perceived bias and unfairness,” Nzimande said.

Also under the spotlight will be MUT’s governance and its executive management structures, in particular their functioning and efficacy.

MUT’s spokesperson, Mbali Mkhize, said the council would meet and deliberate on the issue before formulating a response.

It is understood that the university council was set to meet last night and they were expected to issue a statement today.

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